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Heritage Lottery Fund dumps three bold new designs

The Heritage Lottery Fund has delivered a triple hammer-blow to progressive architecture in the UK by turning down applications in London, Glasgow and Greater Manchester.

The country's most ambitious landscape project, at Crystal Palace park in London, has been turned down by the HLF as 'too modern' after a year's deliberation - despite the fact that it funded the competition to select the designer. The internationally renowned landscape architect Kathryn Gustafsen was working on the design with John Lyall Architects to revitalise Paxton's famous and much-neglected park. The HLF has turned down Bromley council's application for £28 million, developed in full consultation with English Heritage, which supported it enthusiastically.

Instead, the HLF is granting just over £2 million for the restoration of the parts where Paxton's design still exists and for mending the dinosaur sculptures. This will not address the problems of the upper part of the park, virtually destroyed and under-used. Irene Seijo, parks project officer with Bromley Council, said: 'They have had our application for nearly a year. In my opinion it is disgraceful, it is unbelievable.' Although the sum requested looks large, the park covers 80ha, so it would work out at only about £35/ m2 .John Lyall said: 'It is a bad day for modern architecture and landscape, ' and criticised the HLF for taking so long to decide it didn't like the project. A lesser solution would be 'another Band-Aid piece of work'. He added: 'Perhaps we should have gone to the Millennium Commission instead.'

In the past the HLF has turned down an application from the RIBA - designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners - for moving its library collections to the Round House in Camden after a long-drawn-out process.

North of the border, Page & Park's National Gallery for Scottish Art and Design needed an £18.5 million grant. But the HLF said it was too much and the Glasgow scheme had not secured partnership funding.

It is the latest rebuff for a scheme initially put at £59 million in 1996 and needing a £30 million grant. The 18,000 m2 design was to go in a former post office building in the city. The lottery deemed it poor value for money but said it would consider a smaller scheme. Page & Park's answer was an 11,000 m2 design for Glasgow's Classical-style old sheriff court building, with a total cost of around £30 million. Last week the HLF snubbed it again.

Glasgow's Lord Provost Pat Lally attacked the HLF for being vague on cash limits. 'Why waste their time and everybody else's if they have a notional limit?' An application to the Millennium Commission may resolve the problem, he said. 'If they can spare £750 million for the Millennium Dome they should be able to fund this project out of petty cash.'

One of the architects, David Page, said he was terribly frustrated. There was a lack of national unity with the scheme. 'I think there is a perceived problem of this being a regional gallery and not a national one.'

An HLF spokeswoman would not comment. But director Anthea Case said the fund only has around £50 million for museums and galleries across the UK. The proposal would have created a major gallery in an area 'not under-provided with museums'. It was also at a time when priorities lay with improving existing museums, she said in a letter to National Gallery trustees.

The HLF has also refused to allow the Imperial War Museum to resubmit its proposal for Trafford's Daniel Libeskind-designed museum. After it was rejected the first time, the museum obtained a £10 million private donation (AJ 19.3.98) and asked permission to resubmit for a smaller grant. Director of the project Geoff Marsh is bullish. 'I had a meeting with Trafford council this week, ' he said. 'We are still determined to realise this project and deliver a stunning piece of architecture.'

Bromley Council's planning committee met on Tuesday night to decide whether to give permission for an Ian Ritchie-designed leisure centre on the site of the original Crystal Palace. Deputy PM John Prescott has declined to call in the project.

The report to the committee recommends approval.

The HLF has announced grants to 74 projects, with a total value of £21 million. The largest, of £10.65 million, went to Brighton West Pier Trust for the restoration of the Grade I-listed pier. The HLF has stipulated that new aspects of the work must be the subject of an open architectural competition. Zaha Hadid had been linked to designing a restaurant for Oliver Peyton to go on the pier. HLF said there were a further £28.76 million of grants awarded but not yet announced. These are believed to include the British galleries at the V&A and a major museums award in Liverpool.

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